Ulterior Motives of Lobbyists Defending Sen. Jack Tate Exposed

Sen. Jack Tate (R).

Back on November 20, we took note of a story from Ernest Luning of the former Colorado Statesman featuring a number of female lobbyists rising to the defense of Sen. Jack Tate of Centennial–following allegations of sexual harassment against him from a legislative aide who reportedly left the Capitol rather than deal with his unwanted advances. In particular, we recognized an undisclosed connection between at least one of the lobbyists most stoutly defending Tate’s character and legislation that both was sponsored by Tate as well as passed through Sen. Tate’s Business, Labor and Technology (BLT) Committee.

And without researching in detail, we postulated there would be more such undisclosed relationships between the lobbyists defending Tate in Luning’s story and Sen. Tate–relationships that make their rushing to defend Tate from allegations leveled by a young legislative aide something worse than merely dubious.

Today KUNC, the outlet responsible for breaking the story of widespread sexual harassment in the Colorado General Assembly, published their own research into the lobbyists who defended Sen. Tate. And it’s worse than we could have imagined:

Five women lobbyists who voiced support for Sen. Jack Tate after sexual harassment allegations against him also did business before the committee he chairs earlier this year…

All five women lobbyists worked on bills sponsored by Tate or before his committee. Three of them donated to his campaign.

They’ve also come under fire from other women for their support in a series of Facebook posts, where some questioned their motivations, drawing objections from some of the lobbyists in lengthy comment threads.

Colorado Common Cause Executive Director Elena Nunez talked about the potential for conflicts.

“I think some of the conversations around some of the latest allegations and defending some legislators and not others really reveals that,” she said. “The dynamic really reveals the challenge of confronting sexual harassment in a political context.” [Pols emphasis]

That’s a very polite way of saying that not only do lobbyists have a straightforward ulterior motive for defending allied lawmakers accused of harassment, but lobbyists contribute to a culture of harassment by defending accused lawmakers against allegations from junior staffers. The reason that men with power feel comfortable engaging in behavior toward women that would make their mothers slap them silly is they know they will have defenders eager to ingratiate themselves with men who have power.

You know, like lobbyists do.

Today’s story documents the extensive connections between the lobbyists who defended Sen. Tate and legislation that Tate either sponsored or that appeared before Tate’s key Senate committee. In one case, nearly half the legislation one lobbyist was registered on was directly connected to Sen. Tate either by sponsorship or the Senate BLT Committee. That these lobbyists were able to offer their “defenses” of Sen. Tate with no disclosure whatsoever of these mutually gainful relationships is a huge problem–and now that it’s been disclosed, the credibility of Tate’s lobbyist defenders simply evaporates. The game is up.

There isn’t just one reason why sexual harassment becomes tolerated within the culture of any organization. There are lots of reasons. Yes, the men who can’t keep their hands and lecherous comments to themselves are the ones who bear 100% of the blame.

But as for the shame, it seems there is plenty to go around. There are lessons here for the men who behave this way, but also everyone who interacts with them and the institutions that provide harassers with a venue. The days of such behavior being tolerated–and enabled–are over, and we all must catch up to this new reality.

Even when it’s hard. Especially in fact.

Colorado Democrats Push Gardner to Act on CHIP Funding

Make the right call, Sen. Gardner

It’s easy for big issues to get lost in the hubbub surrounding the Congressional Republican tax plan and the ongoing investigations into the Trump administration. Today Colorado Democrats called on Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) to take action on one of those issues: Renewing federal funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

From a press release:

Today, 53 Democratic members of the Colorado General Assembly sent a letter to Senator Cory Gardner urging him and his colleagues to reauthorize the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). The Republican controlled Congress failed to reauthorize the vital CHIP program before funding expired this past September, putting nearly 9 million children across the country at risk of losing health care.

“75,761 Colorado children and expectant mothers depend on the program for health insurance. It is unacceptable that despite broad bipartisan support for reauthorizing this critical program, it has languished for months in the Senate,” the lawmakers wrote.

“Senator Gardner, you have said that you support reauthorization of the program, and co-sponsored bipartisan legislation with Senator Bennet to reauthorize CHIP,” the letter continued. “That support is hollow if you and your Republican colleagues do nothing to advance the legislation. As an influential member of Senate leadership, our expectation is that you would zealously advocate for Colorado’s priorities to become the US Senate’s priorities.”

Unless the Senate re-authorizes funding for CHIP, Colorado will run out of money for the program at the end of January.

Caption This Photo: Mansplainin’ Legislatin’ With Sen. Ray Scott

Look y’all, Sen. Ray Scott is not one of those spineless politicians who wants to get your “feedback” on his legislative agenda or any mamby-pamby crap like that. Sen. Scott doesn’t want to ask you anything. He wants to “tell you what he’s planning to make a legislative priority.” And your job is to shut up and listen like a good citizen.

Suddenly we feel less motivated to buy a new fireplace too.

Get More Smarter on Thursday (November 30)

Tomorrow is December. No, really. It’s time to Get More Smarter. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is about to be put out of his misery. As the Washington Post explains:

The White House has readied a plan to oust embattled Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and replace him with CIA Director Mike Pompeo, who has become one of the most personally loyal and politically savvy members of President Trump’s national security team, two administration officials confirmed Thursday.

The plan, hatched by White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly, is expected to be set in motion over the next few weeks, and has broad support within Trump’s inner circle, the officials said. But it was unclear whether Trump had signed off on the plan yet, and the president has been known to change his mind about personnel and other matters before finalizing decisions with public announcements.

Under the plan, Pompeo would likely be replaced at the CIA by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), one of Trump’s most steadfast defenders and a confidant to some leading members of the foreign policy team, according to the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the White House has not publicly announced the moves.

Tillerson likely has some pretty mixed feelings about this news. Nobody likes to get fired, but when working for President Trump is the alternative…

 

► Arizona Sen. John McCain today announced that he will support the Republican tax plan in the U.S. Senate as the legislation inches closer to a floor vote. So much is being written about the Tax Turducken that it is difficult to even summarize the information, so instead, here are some of the top stories we’re reading today about this debacle:

Mark Matthews of the Denver Post outlines “Six things Coloradans should watch in the Senate tax bill.”

– The Washington Post takes a look at the state of the GOP tax plan as of this morning.

– As the Atlantic reports, younger Americans will be stuck paying for tax cuts for the rich.

– Editorial boards across the country are condemning the Republican tax plan. Here’s the Philadelphia Enquirer; the Des Moines Register; and the Chicago Sun-Times, just to name a few.

 

► It may seem these days like there is nothing a politician can do to truly derail their career, but Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) and his NRSC committed a cardinal sin in politics: Betraying major donors.

 

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

(more…)

BREAKING: Harassment Complaint Filed Against Sen. Baumgardner

Sen. Randy Baumgarder (right center).

KUNC’s Bente Birkeland breaks the latest news in the growing and sordid story of sexual harassment in the Colorado General Assembly: a formal complaint filed against GOP Sen. Randy Baumgardner of Hot Sulphur Springs.

It’s been a long time coming:

A former legislative aide has filed a sexual harassment complaint against Republican state Sen. Randy Baumgardner for inappropriately touching her.

The woman alleges that Baumgardner of Hot Sulphur Springs slapped and grabbed her buttocks about four times over a three month period during the 2016 legislative session when she worked at the State Capitol. She alleges that each incident happened inside the Capitol building during her workday, often while she was walking through a corridor next to the Senate Chamber.

She wishes to remain anonymous out of fear of retribution. The formal process allows the complaint to remain private.

Birkeland confirms something we had already heard, in fact well before the present controversy over widespread sexual harassment at Capitol has been in the headlines–Sen. Baumgardner’s alleged treatment of women was no secret, and he is one of the men who women of all occupations in the building warned one another to keep their distance from.

“I just thought this was something you had to push aside. I always knew he was someone to stay away from,” [the legislative aide] said. “He’s just unsavory. They’re like, that’s how he is. It’s very well known.”

But when we reported on Nov. 16 that a separate woman, intern Megan Creeden, allegedly had many uncomfortable encounters with Baumgardner during the 2016 legislative session, she said she was outraged and decided to file a formal complaint.

It’s gross. And it’s no secret.

Despite this, during the 2017 legislative session, Sen. Baumgardner served at the chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee and the vice-chair of the Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Energy Committee, and vice-chair of the joint Capital Development Committee. The common knowledge of Sen. Baumgardner’s alleged treatment of women subjects Senate leadership to every bit of the criticism that has been directed at House leadership for failing to punish Rep. Steve Lebsock–even more so, since in Lebsock’s case a process was followed to resolve the prior complaint against him.

That’s a nice way of saying that as of now, armchair morality czars are on notice–to call for resignations in Senate leadership like they’ve maligned the first Latina Speaker of the House, or to (our preference) knock off this hypocritical headhunting and senseless victim blaming.

Because the only ones responsible for these violations are the men who can’t keep their hands to themselves.

Colorado Senate press secretary warns of “harassment” and copyright violation if you quote his Facebook page

(Wow, that’s stupid – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

paige on violation of copyright and harassmentU.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona is a “media whore.” Fact-check journalism is “largely phony.”

Those quotes, which I included in recent blog posts, come from the personal Facebook page of Colorado Senate GOP spokesperson Sean Paige.

Going forward, he wrote on his Facebook page, he does not want people like me, who are not his Facebook friends, using quotes like those.

No doubt Paige does not want me to quote his polite request to stop quoting his Facebook material, but here I go anyway:

Paige: “Please note that these are my private and personal thoughts, which I post on this invite-only Facebook page for friends and associates–and which aren’t meant to reflect the views of clients I may have in the professional realm. I’m forced to add this because social media bottom-feeders, in a desperate bid for cannon fodder, relevance and clicks, have been stealing content from this page and republishing it on partisan attack blogs without my consent or permission, which I deem not just a violation of copright and an act of harassment, but a despicable effort to curtail and chill my privacy rights and rights to free speech and expression. So if you are here uninvited, with such aims in mind, please unfriend this page and stop misappropriating and misusing what I post here. Surely there must be better, more honest ways for you to get attention.)” (emphasis added)

When Paige complained on Twitter a few months ago about my quoting his Facebook posts, I responded by asking him if he thought Clinton’s private emails were out of bounds or Obama’s comments about Pennsylvanians who cling to their guns. Or Rep. Mike Coffman’s (R-CO) comment that he was unsure if Obama was an American in his heart.

Paige didn’t respond, but he’s gotta know, as a spokesman for politicians, how journalism and public debate works. Private information gets out. If it’s verifiable and relevant, it gets published. Trump gets mad but that’s life.

You sympathize with politicians and people like Paige who are scrutinized, but it’s tough to keep your thoughts private these days, especially when you blast them out at private fundraisers or post them on your personal Facebook page, which has hundreds of friends.

But now Paige, who did not immediately return a call for comment, is taking a different tact, with new accusations about people who quote his stuff:

An act of “harassment.” Not. It’s closer to bearing witness. In my case, I just quote him and try to explain it or challenge it.

“Curtail and chill” his privacy rights and rights to free speech and expression. Nope. I’m interested in debating him freely and letting his speech blossom into the sunlight.

“Violation” of his copyright. Again, no. Sharing is the way of social media, but Paige actually has an important point that copyright protections exist. But, per fair-use standards, you’re allowed to reproduce portions of copyrighted material for criticism and commentary. So my selective quoting of his Facebook page is ok.

If Paige is serious about trying to keep his stuff personal, he should de-friend all his Facebook friends, except the ones who won’t pass on his posts to me or others. But the person who shares my Facebook posts the most is my mother! She even prints them out and puts them on her fridge for all to see! So if I were Paige, I’d have a hard time keeping my posts under wraps. I mean, I’d never de-friend mom.

Lobbyists Questionably Leap To Sen. Jack Tate’s Defense

MONDAY UPDATE #2: In a thoughtful Facebook post, Rep. Jonathan Singer calls the story in question “media-enabled gaslighting.”

We can do better.

This might come as a shock to some people. Of all the elected officials that have allegations against them, I’ve been friends with … pretty much all of them. And that shouldn’t matter to the media.

It turns out that people who do bad things can be very nice people. That’s how they can continue to bad things. It’s also one reason why survivors choose not to come forward. If there are more victims, do you think they’re more or less likely to step forward now?

We have to take every allegation seriously and I think it’s absolutely appropriate for someone to refute an allegation if they were direct witness to it. I also think it’s alright if people don’t want to rush to judge their peers. Let our process (that could improve) play out first. I don’t think any of the people in the article were intending to discredit the victim or stop new reports. But those just might be the consequences.

—–

MONDAY UPDATE: Conservative blog Colorado Peak Politics’ lede today says a mouthful:

That’s how the boys explain these things, yes! Unfortunately the victims tend to see it differently.

And yes, this is yet another shining example of the problem.

—–

UPDATE #2: More from today’s post from Morgan Carroll, as Statesman reporter Ernest Luning responds–Carroll lays out the problem brilliantly:

Morgan Carroll: Just to be clear. You wrote the story in question. You miss the point. I think it looks like a lineup of lobbyists (who have professional and financial ties to Tate) [Pols emphasis] defending an elected official overall suggesting that if women lobbyists think Sen. Tate is a nice guy that the he couldn’t have harassed or been inappropriate with an intern.

Exactly.

—–

UPDATE: In a testy Facebook exchange with Colorado Democratic Party chair Morgan Carroll, longtime Capitol lobbyist Wendy Aiello appears to confirm that she is “working with” Sen. Jack Tate to respond to the allegations against him:

This detail is significant because Megan Dubray, who is extensively quoted in today’s story from the Colorado Statesman’s Ernest Luning (below), is listed as “of counsel” for Aiello Public Relations. None of these relationships are disclosed in Luning’s story.

Which is, of course, a big problem.

—–

Sen. Jack Tate.

A new story from Ernest Luning of the former Colorado Statesman this morning is stoking fresh controversy in the growing scandal over widespread sexual harassment in the Colorado Capitol. The story consists of several lobbyists defending Sen. Jack Tate from allegations of misconduct leveled in a story by KUNC’s Bente Birkeland late last week.

Luning’s story is problematic on several levels–for Sen. Tate, and also the lobbyists attempting to jump on this grenade on Tate’s behalf:

“I was surprised by the story,” lobbyist Adeline Hodge told Colorado Politics. “I was definitely surprised to hear Jack Tate’s name thrown into the ring. I think we can all acknowledge there are things at the Capitol that need improvement, but I think we need to focus on the true problem areas.”

Said lobbyist Cindy Sovine-Miller: “I’ve worked very closely with Sen. Tate, and I’ve never experienced anything like that. He’s very respectful of his wife and his daughter and the women around him. I’m not trying to say sexual harassment isn’t happening at the Capitol, but you guys are pointing the finger at the wrong guy.”

The most stout–and questionable–defense of Tate came from Meg Dubray, a (nominally) Democratic lobbyist:

“What we saw in the paper didn’t show some sort of deviant pattern of behavior. The whole thing — a politician’s job is kissing babies and shaking hands. He’s a friendly guy, he’s from the South and has that sort of congenial nature to him. But it’s never been toward me or anyone I’ve seen in a less than completely respectful way,” [Dubray] said.

After repeating one of the story’s allegations — that Tate had supposedly told the anonymous intern he “really liked that skirt” she was wearing while on an elevator with her — Dubray said she doubted it happened that way but, even if it had, it was an example of Tate’s southern manners and nothing to get alarmed about.

“He always appreciates when men and women are dressed well,” Dubray said with a laugh. “But not in a creepy way, almost in a funny, goofy way.” [Pols emphasis]

That’s what they all say, isn’t it?

Of course it may be true that Tate has never harassed Dubray personally, or these other lobbyists personally, but that doesn’t rule out the possibility that he did so with others. And we’re sorry, but dismissing such behavior as “funny” or “goofy” has allowed way too many predators to continue with their predation.

Anyone who has followed the pitched battles in the legislature in recent years over legislation easing restrictions on subprime personal lenders is aware that Dubray is the lobbyist who worked with Sen. Tate on behalf of those lenders. In 2015, a last-minute bill that Dubray helped sneak through the House was vetoed by Gov. John Hickenlooper after an outcry from consumer advocates and in some cases hoodwinked Democrats.

The point? Meg Dubray has a gainful professional relationship with Sen. Tate. We haven’t looked into the other lobbyists’ disclosures, but it wouldn’t surprise us to learn the same.

Folks, how could this story be published without mentioning that? It’s irresponsible to leave that crucial fact out, even if it can be straightforwardly inferred. And it segues into the larger problem with these defenses of Tate: they seem to all be coming from lobbyists, and Jack Tate is the chairman of the Senate Business, Labor and Technology Committee.

If the conflict of interest here is not immediately evident to you, please go back and reread Ethics 101.

Oops! Rep. Dave Williams, Day Late, Dollar Short

UPDATE: From Rep. Faith Winter’s statement this week stoutly defending Speaker Crisanta Duran, which carries considerably more weight:

Speaker Duran has done everything correctly. In May of 2016 Speaker Hullinghorst and then-Majority Leader Duran took the allegation seriously, worked with legal services to provide me with legal options and most importantly respected my decisions as a survivor. It was my decision not to move forward with a formal complaint. I worked with leadership to come up with a resolution that I felt most comfortable with. I told him I would go public if I heard of anything else. We thought that the issue had been resolved with the steps that he agreed to, including getting therapy and quitting drinking, and I hadn’t heard of subsequent allegations until last week.

From when I first informed Speaker Duran about the incident to today when I informed her I would be filing a formal complaint she has been very supportive and has also followed all the guidelines as outlined in our workplace harassment policy.

I one hundred percent support the Speaker, and we need to focus on the only person to blame for Steve Lebsock’s actions – Steve himself.

—–

Rep. Dave Williams (R).

Moments ago, controversial freshman Rep. Dave Williams of Colorado Springs published an op-ed in the Denver Post addressing the recent sexual harassment scandal in the Colorado General Assembly. Williams takes a strident partisan line, affecting great outrage over the supposed failure of House Speaker Crisanta Duran to intervene in Rep. Steve Lebsock’s alleged serial harassment:

Another dark shadow has been cast over the Colorado General Assembly, giving citizens even more cause to “throw the bums out.” Recently, state Rep. Steve Lebsock has been accused of sexual harassment by multiple women, and I for one believe their stories. Because of his own actions, Lebsock has lost the trust of his colleagues and the public and it’s time for him to step down.

But the truth is we would never have arrived at this point if the state House Democratic leadership hadn’t covered up for Lebsock for well over a year. Their silence and mishandling of this issue put at risk other women, for which they must be held accountable.

Sturm und drang, indeed–but since Rep. Dave Williams wrote this opinion sometime before yesterday evening, something happened.

Longstanding allegations of harassment by Republicans in the Colorado Senate, alluded to since the first reports a week ago, were confirmed. In at least one case, Sen. Randy Baumgardner, the allegations were sufficiently common knowledge that it is impossible GOP Senate leadership were not aware of the situation.

With this in mind, we decided to have a little fun with Williams’ bombastic rhetoric search-and-replace style:

Another dark shadow has been cast over the Colorado General Assembly, giving citizens even more cause to “throw the bums out.” Recently, state Sen. Randy Baumgardner has been accused of sexual harassment by multiple women, and I for one believe their stories. Because of his own actions, Baumgardner has lost the trust of his colleagues and the public and it’s time for him to step down.

But the truth is we would never have arrived at this point if the state Senate Republican leadership hadn’t covered up for Baumgardner for well over a year. Their silence and mishandling of this issue put at risk other women, for which they must be held accountable…

Just like Hollywood covering up for Harvey Weinstein for so long, so too has the Colorado Republican Senate leadership indirectly caused abuse of additional victims.

As a state legislator, I realize that the people have given us a sacred trust. They expect us to conduct the people’s business in an ethical and upright manner. That trust has been violated, not only by Baumgardner but also by Kevin Grantham, Chris Holbert, and any other leaders who knew about this, yet did nothing to prevent future abuses…

The archaic days of covering up corrupt and immoral behavior because of political expedience must end, which is why Grantham, Holbert, and anyone else in leadership who knew but didn’t stop it need to resign. [Pols emphasis]

And that, dear reader, is why you wait until both shoes have dropped.

Broactive: GOP’s Evolving Response To Harassment Scandal

Colorado Senate President Kevin Grantham.

With the scandal over widespread sexual misconduct and harassment in the Colorado General Assembly entering its second week, the latest development being accusations against two Republican Colorado Senators, we wanted to take a moment to circle back and examine the three statements put out by GOP Senate President Kevin Grantham’s press office as the controversy has unfolded.

The initial statement came last Friday, as KUNC’s Bente Birkeland broke the first story of allegations against Democratic Rep. Steve Lebsock:

We take any and all allegations of sexual harassment or misconduct very seriously. The legislature has been proactive about heading-off potential problems by conducting in-depth sexual harassment awareness training for legislators and staff, and we have a formal process in place to address issues if they arise. At this time we have no active complaints on these issues, [Pols emphasis] but we will continue to be proactive [Pols emphasis] about educating lawmakers and staff and policing problems should they occur.

Then the following Monday, an updated statement from Senate GOP leadership outlining new proposed steps from President Grantham to address the problem–still without any mention of the possibility that Senate Republicans had themselves been implicated:

We have a zero tolerance policy for sexual harassment, [Pols emphasis] but welcome the opportunity to improve upon our procedures. I propose to my colleagues the following 5-part improvement plan to increase access to information and ease reporting processes.

But yesterday, after allegations against Republicans finally broke, a very different statement:

We take every allegation of harassment or misconduct seriously. We ask those who feel they have been victims of harassment or inappropriate behavior at the General Assembly to file an official complaint, in confidence that their anonymity and rights will be protected. Going forward, Senate Republican leaders cannot and will not be responding to unsubstantiated or anonymous allegations against members appearing in the press, [Pols emphasis] which the existing complaint process is designed to handle.

Over the last week, the chief complaint from critics of Democratic Speaker of the House Crisanta Duran is that she knew about the allegations that Lebsock had committed sexual harassment but “didn’t take action.” It’s not true; the statements of the principal survivor in Lebsock’s case are clear that the matter was resolved through mediation in the House–and the survivor came forward publicly only after further alleged incidents by Rep. Lebsock. It’s critical that this timeline be clearly understood.

But as we said yesterday, the allegations against at least one Republican Senator who has now been identified, Randy Baumgardner of Hot Sulphur Springs, were very far from secret. The original story from Berkeland last Friday referenced at least three yet-unnamed Republican Senators who were known offenders–the guys every woman in the Capitol knew to keep their distance from.

What does that mean? It means Senate President Kevin Grantham’s claims that Senate Republicans are in any way “proactive” in addressing sexual harassment, or that anything like a “zero tolerance” policy exists in his chamber, are false. If they were true, Randy Baumgarder would have been subjected to the same scrutiny Lebsock faced in the wake of his actions in 2016–at least the “informal mediation” described by all parties in Lebsock’s case. Some kind of acknowledgement that something bad had happened.

And the other Senators, too. At least one whose name we don’t yet know.

With this in mind–with the fact that at least one Republican accused of harassment was, like Rep. Lebsock, a poorly-kept secret under the Gold Dome–all of these statements from Senate Republican leadership are revealed to be evasions. There was no “proactive” work going on in the Colorado Senate to put a stop to sexual harassment, while the House at least tried to intervene. And after the savage grilling House Speaker Duran has faced over the last week for her handling of Lebsock, suddenly it’s Kevin Grantham who appears to have actually “turned a blind eye” to harassment in his chamber.

Item one: Speaker Duran gets an apology from…a bunch of dudes. You know who you are.

Item two: The editorials calling for Kevin Grantham’s head had better be good.

BREAKING: GOP Sens. Tate, Baumgardner Accused of Harassment

Randy Baumgardner.

KUNC’s Bente Birkeland breaks more ugly news from the Colorado General Assembly–this time two members of the Republican state Senate majority accused of harassing lobbyists–and, in at least one case, an intern working for a member from across the aisle:

New claims of sexual harassment have been brought up at the Colorado legislature involving Sens. Randy Baumgardner and Jack Tate. Both, in comments to us, strongly deny any wrongdoing, although they refused to answer our specific questions directly.

Megan Creeden, an intern who was 25 at the time, told us she had many uncomfortable encounters with Baumgardner during the 2016 legislative session. She said Baumgardner often pressured her to drink with him in his office and she didn’t want to be with him in his office alone because she didn’t know him…

Six other female lobbyists and staffers who declined to be named for this story, fearing going public would affect their work relationships at the Capitol, said they also avoid Baumgardner. Some said they won’t work alone with Baumgardner and only go to his office in pairs or urge male colleagues to work with him instead. Baumgardner chairs the Senate Transportation and the Senate Capital Development Committees.

The allegations against Sen. Randy Baumgardner of Hot Sulphur Springs are not surprising to many people in the Capitol we’ve spoken with–in fact it was only surprising that it took so many days after the initial allegations of widespread sexual harassment in the General Assembly came out almost one week ago for Baumgardner to become part of the story.

That’s a nice way of saying that Baumgardner’s reputation for this kind of thing is not a well-kept secret.

Jack Tate.

The case of Sen. Jack Tate, representing a substantially less safe suburban Denver Senate district, though, was perhaps less expected:

The former intern, who was 18 at the time, spoke to us on the condition of anonymity, because she could be involved in an unrelated sexual assault case involving a different person. She claims Tate was inappropriate with her repeatedly over a period of two-and-a-half months last year…

At one point, she alleged, Tate said to her, “if she wanted to move up in the world, give him a call.” [Pols emphasis]

Needless to say, eww. That’s the trademark blending of the professional with the skeezy you never, ever want to see.

In response to these new-but-not-really-new allegations, GOP Senate President Kevin Grantham released a new statement, overriding previous carefully-worded missives about “proactively” taking on the problem of sexual harassment. Now that Republicans are under the microscope, the Senate GOP leadership is officially clamming up:

We take every allegation of harassment or misconduct seriously. We ask those who feel they have been victims of harassment or inappropriate behavior at the General Assembly to file an official complaint, in confidence that their anonymity and rights will be protected. Going forward, Senate Republican leaders cannot and will not be responding to unsubstantiated or anonymous allegations against members appearing in the press, which the existing complaint process is designed to handle… [Pols emphasis]

Can you imagine the outcry if this had been House Speaker Crisanta Duran’s first response?

As you can see, the next phase of this troubling but very much necessary storyline appears to be underway. Stand by for updates tomorrow.

Well That’s Embarrassing, Colorado Senate GOP Spox Edition

UPDATE: The offending Tweet has now been deleted, but thanks to the magic of screenshots (see below) it has the opportunity to live on in infamy. You’re welcome.

—–

Sean Paige, the communications director of the Colorado Senate Republican Majority Office, doesn’t know what Google’s problem is this morning:

Contemporaneous with news this morning out of Harare, Zimbabwe that longtime president/tyrant Robert Mugabe has been removed from power following a military coup, it appears that the director of the Colorado Senate GOP wants to know why Mugabe is being “honored” by Google via the presence of the stylized logo you can see above.

The only problem here, which you can discover if you click the little “share” icon next to the image–preferably before you Tweet about it? That’s not Robert Mugabe.

Chinua Achebe was a Nigerian novelist, poet, professor, and critic. His first novel Things Fall Apart (1958), often considered his best, is the most widely read book in modern African literature. He won the Man Booker International Prize in 2007.

We know, cut Sean Paige some slack, right? After all they’re both…oh, wait.

Yes, this really just happened.

If you’ve ever wondered why communications out of the Colorado Senate GOP office sometimes fall almost comically flat, almost like it was on purpose, well, here you go. It’s not easy to shoot yourself in the foot with such deadly precision.

Sometimes things just fall apart, gentle readers.

Colorado to HHS: #HandsOffMyBC

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)


Sen. Don Coram (R-Montrose) speaks at the Denver #HandsOffMyBC rally.

Coloradans filled the streets in downtown Denver today as part of rallies in numerous major cities across the nation in opposition to the recent decision by the Department of Health and Human Services to allow almost any employer to eliminate contraceptives from employee health coverage. ProgressNow Colorado, the state’s largest online progressive advocacy organization, joined with NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado, Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, the Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights (COLOR), the American Civil Liberties Union, the Interfaith Alliance, Indivisible Denver, Indivisible Front Range Resistance, New Era Colorado, C.A.P.E. Denver, Together We Will, concerned residents, and elected officials on both sides of the aisle to rescind this order and ensure women stay covered.

“Men and women, Republicans and Democrats, communities of faith from across Colorado all say with one voice that access to birth control is off limits to cynical DC political games,” said Sen. Kerry Donovan of Vail. “Contraceptive coverage as mandated by the Affordable Care Act has helped to reduce the rate of unintended pregnancy in Colorado and throughout the nation. The public health benefits of contraceptive coverage have been proven again and again, but more importantly, people have a fundamental right to access contraception within the health coverage they already pay for.”

“Since the beginning of this new administration, American lives have been at stake,” said Rev. Tammy Garrett-Williams. “The Affordable Healthcare Act otherwise known as Obamacare has been threatened from every angle. Now we’re here to defend women and teen girls who are being affected by taking away basic care when it comes to prevention of unplanned pregnancies. There is no mention of abortion in our Bible anywhere, but there is clear reference to not judging another person—spoken specifically by Jesus. This decision takes a judgmental action by implying that women are not capable of making decisions with their own bodies. This decision will cause more problems by increasing unwanted pregnancies and abortions. Take your hands off our birth control!”

“Increasing access to reproductive health care means access to birth control,” said Adrienne Mansanares of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains. “It is unconscionable that a woman’s decision to access birth control can now be made for her by her boss. This is a message to American women that they can’t be trusted to make their own health care decisions, and must get permission from an authority figure first. Nothing should come between women and the health care they need.”

“Colorado is an incredible success story when it comes to reducing the rate of unintended pregnancy through access to contraceptives,” said Taylor Holden of ProgressNow Colorado. “Part of that success has been the requirement that employers offer contraceptive coverage as part of every insurance plan. We know from experience in Colorado that having access to birth control leads to better planning, happier children, and stronger families. We’re calling on HHS to immediately rescind the new policy allowing almost any employer to end contraceptive coverage. Colorado knows what success looks like, and we don’t want this.”

For more information on today’s rally in Denver and other major cities across the nation, click here.

Dear Everyone: Don’t Outrun Sexual Assault Allegations

UPDATE: State Rep. Steve Lebsock unintentionally backs up our point:

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Hold on. Back up. Slow down.

A story about sexual harassment in the State Capitol that broke last week is quickly turning into a weird media free-for-all with desperate attempts to advance the story to another stage without fully embracing or unpacking the fundamental issue at stake: There is a cultural and institutional problem of sexual harassment at the state legislature.

This is not a partisan problem, and it is not a new problem. For too long, the atmosphere around the state legislature has been reminiscent of a high school field trip with little accountability or even understanding of the inappropriate behavior that takes place in quiet corners. Reporter Bente Birkeland of KUNC first broke the story on Friday of harassment allegations against state Rep. Steve Lebsock, a Democrat who is also running for State Treasurer. Much of the media focus since that story has been about Lebsock and his most-visible accuser, state Rep. Faith Winter, and on Monday the coverage started to veer into a “cover-up” story suggesting that House Speaker Cristana Duran should resign from the legislature for not doing more to address sexual assault claims in 2016.

There will be plenty of time to address Duran’s responses to these allegations and the subsequent political fallout, but it’s critical that we don’t veer off topic from the broader issue at stake. As Birkeland wrote on Friday, this story does not start and stop with allegations about one legislator:

Beyond Rep. Steve Lebsock, there are other complaints about a handful of male senators touching women’s lower backs, giving lingering hugs, making uncomfortable and unwanted comments about appearances, massaging necks, telling off-color jokes of a sexual nature and showing pornographic pictures.

Several female lobbyists said they try to avoid being alone with certain senators and go to offices in pairs or ask a male colleague to talk to them instead. None were willing to be named for this story, saying they feared going public would hurt their work at the legislature.

Another said, “It’s a well known fact across the building that people like Rep. Lebsock and a number of Senate Republicans have all behaved in a way that would never be accepted in any other conventional workplace. It crosses party lines and has been happening for generations.” [Pols emphasis]

Rep. Steve Lebsock (D-Thornton)

This story is nowhere close to even contemplating a conclusion. According to Birkeland’s reporting, numerous other lawmakers from both parties appear likely to be accused of sexual harassment encompassing several years.

Let’s repeat that one more time: According to Birkeland’s reporting, numerous other lawmakers from both parties appear likely to be accused of sexual harassment encompassing several years.

As we all wait for more information about this developing story, the Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault (CCASA) issued a powerful statement today calling on the media to consider the chilling effect it can have on other victims who may otherwise be prepared to come forward with their own experiences:

Sexual violence is a complicated topic to understand and crimes of sexual violence, including sexual harassment, are among the most underreported crimes in our society. Compounding the problem is that media coverage of these crimes often perpetuates stereotypes and myths, rather than providing well-written, fact-based stories. Covering sexual violence requires context — an understanding of who perpetrates these crimes, who is affected, and how sexual violence can be prevented. When the media chooses to criticize the actions of survivors and bystanders instead of focusing on the choices of perpetrators, journalists stand in the way of meaningful cultural change necessary to support survivors, hold offenders accountable, and create safer communities. [Pols emphasis]

SURVIVORS’ CHOICE MATTERS. Disregard for individuals’ choices and autonomy is at the core of sexual violence perpetration, including sexual harassment. Disregard for survivors’ choice to report, or not to report, is a shade of the same color. In a perfect world, survivors would be able to report without fearing personal and professional consequences. However, this is not a perfect world, and we know that many survivors face safety concerns, financial obstacles, custody battles, and social ostracism, amongst other considerations when reporting. Furthermore, we know that victims of workplace sexual harassment fear repercussions that make it difficult to continue at the workplace, such as lowered reputation, questioning of credibility and competency, reassignment, and even loss of their job. All this to say that reporting is a significant decision for a survivor with significant consequences to consider.

The CCASA statement goes on to say that calling for Speaker Duran’s resignation at this point “sends a dangerous message: victim choice does not matter, and the consequences that may affect the victim are not important.”

This story first broke because Rep. Winter had the courage to come forward about her experiences. Before everyone runs off in a different direction, perhaps we should come back to Winter herself:


Look, none of this is to say that Speaker Duran is free of guilt in this situation, but we’re just not there yet. Both Democratic and Republican leaders are calling for added protections against sexual harassment in the legislature, which is an important first step in solving this problem instead of just looking for someone to take out back and shoot.

It seems likely that more names are going to come out regarding a culture of harassment at the State Capitol, and it is critical that survivors of sexual assault are not discouraged from coming forward because of knee-jerk reactions from media outlets and other observers.

Colorado Republicans Love Them Some Roy Moore!

UPDATE: The chairman of the Denver GOP Jake Viano is criticizing Sen. Cory Gardner’s decision to condemn Roy Moore, via CBS4:

“I would not have advised him to do that if I was one of his advisors – it’s antithetical to the system we have in our country,” said Jake Viano, Chairman of the Denver County GOP.

Viano says if the allegations against Moore are true he should only be tried in court.

“What bothers me is our societal shift to believing the court of public opinion and moving away from what this country is founded upon,” said Viano.

“There is a long standing narrative that was put out there by the Democrats that we have a war on women. I greatly detest that, and I’ve argued it tooth and nail that we don’t. But, this only helps further that narrative,” Viano adds on Moore’s campaign.

There you have it, folks. We suspect he’s not the only one (see below).

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You don’t have to stroll very far back down Memory Lane to find this year’s Christian Home Educators of Colorado’s 2017 Homeschool Day at the Capitol: an annual event thrown by and for the burgeoning industry marketing to parents who take their children’s education into their own hands, often for religious reasons–exclusively in the case of the CHEC.

This year’s Homeschool Day at the Capitol featured a special guest: Alabama U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore!

Yes, that Roy Moore:

That’s Sen. Kevin Lundberg, now a candidate for Colorado Treasurer, giving Moore some kind of award. Moore later made the rounds with some of the state’s more conservative lawmakers, such as Rep. Tim “OITNB” Leonard:

But gentle readers, there’s one photo of Moore on the steps of the Colorado Capitol that has aged especially poorly.

Hopefully Judge Moore is praying for (pardon us) self-restraint.

Obviously these photos were taken before the sexual molestation scandal that has gripped the Alabama U.S. Senate special election became national headlines. But given Moore’s defiance in the face of mounting allegations, and the many ideologically friendly Republicans who continue to defend Moore, we think it’s a highly relevant question for anyone who appeared with Moore in Colorado as to whether they’re standing by him today.

Now that Sen. Cory Gardner has belatedly called for Moore to be expelled from the Senate in the event of his still-entirely-possible victory, there might be some choice words on the side for Gardner as well! In any event, we suspect there are many more local angles on this story than have been reported up to now.

BREAKING: Sexual Misconduct Scandal In Colorado’s Capitol

SUNDAY UPDATE: Via the Denver Post’s Danika Worthington:

“I have come to realize that it does not matter that, at the time, I may have perceived my words as playful,” he wrote. “It does not matter that, at the time, I may have felt that we were flirting. It does not matter that, at the time, I may have felt what I said was OK. It does not matter that I may not remember the exact words which were hurtful. It does not matter that, at the time, I thought we were joking.”

“The only thing that matters is how I made these three women feel,” he continued. “I am sorry.”

Later in the day, the women — Winter, former lobbyist Holly Tarry and former legislative aide Cassie Tanner — released a joint statement to The Post that said, while they appreciate Lebsock’s new apology, they believe he has still not taken full responsibility for his actions.

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Rep. Steve Lebsock (D).

KUNC’s Bente Birkeland breaks a story today that could very well mean the end of one Democratic state lawmaker’s career–and rips the scab off a widespread problem that has been long-whispered of in the halls of the Colorado state capitol building, coming to light only now as the cultural upheaval over the treatment of women by men in positions of power goes on throughout our nation.

Let us begin with one unequivocal declaration: of zero tolerance.

Nine legislators, staffers and lobbyists are alleging that Rep. Steve Lebsock, a Democrat running for state treasurer, harassed, intimidated or made unwanted sexual advances against them. And in response to our reporting, a top Democratic leader is calling on Lebsock to “do the right thing and resign.”

Rep. Faith Winter said Lebsock tried to get her to leave a bar with him in 2016. Both were attending a party to celebrate the end of the legislative session. Lawmakers, lobbyists, staff, the governor and members of the media attended the event a few blocks from the Capitol Building…

Winter, a Democrat, said she repeatedly refused Lebsock’s advances, but he wouldn’t stop and instead got angrier and more aggressive. She said he was standing over her and grabbing her elbow and she didn’t feel safe.

Many others in the Capitol are corroborating Rep. Faith Winter’s story of repeated harassment from Rep. Steve Lebsock, who is now a candidate for state treasurer. And apparently it wasn’t just Rep. Winter, with at least one lobbyist describing inappropriate behavior on Rep. Lebsock’s part toward herself personally. The story also refers to but does not describe still another more recent incident.

Colorado Speaker of the House Crisanta Duran is calling for Rep. Lebsock’s resignation following the publication of these allegations today, as the Denver Post’s John Frank reports today:

The statement issued Friday by Duran, a Democrat, read: “I would expect that Representative Lebsock would consider the impact of his actions on his colleagues and the public confidence in our institution, and do the right thing and resign. There is no place for those types of actions at the legislature.”

And despite the feigning of ignorance about the story from Rep. Lebsock when confronted by Bente Birkeland, we do expect that he will be taking her advice very soon. This is not a politically survivable situation. But as Birkeland’s story continues, Lebsock is not likely to be the last to face hard questions for his conduct under the Gold Dome:

Beyond Rep. Steve Lebsock, there are other complaints about a handful of male senators touching women’s lower backs, giving lingering hugs, making uncomfortable and unwanted comments about appearances, massaging necks, telling off-color jokes of a sexual nature and showing pornographic pictures.

Several female lobbyists said they try to avoid being alone with certain senators and go to offices in pairs or ask a male colleague to talk to them instead. None were willing to be named for this story, saying they feared going public would hurt their work at the legislature.

Another said, “It’s a well known fact across the building that people like Rep. Lebsock and a number of Senate Republicans have all behaved in a way that would never be accepted in any other conventional workplace. It crosses party lines and has been happening for generations.” [Pols emphasis]

We of course have our suspicions about which Senate Republicans may be the type to commit sexual harassment in their workplace, but we’ll wait for that to come out through the many responsible channels now hard at work uncovering what appears to be a most distasteful culture of misconduct fostered by some of that chamber’s members. This isn’t the first time a case of sexual misconduct has rocked the Colorado General Assembly–in 2008, Rep. Michel Garcia was swiftly forced to resign after exposing himself to a lobbyist at a social function.

But what we’re talking about here is much more pervasive than anything that has been previously disclosed. We don’t have any way of knowing how many legislators may ultimately be implicated, or what the partisan breakdown of offending lawmakers might be.

What we will say is that sexual harassment in the workplace is never, ever acceptable, no matter what your politics are. To the extent this is a cultural problem in the Colorado General Assembly as it is everywhere, the time for allowing it to go on unreported and unpunished is over. Our society is becoming aware on a massive scale of something terrible that has been allowed to persist even as women fought for and won their rights to equality and dignity. From Harvey Weinstein to Steve Lebsock, it must stop.

It must stop. Every man who has ever treated a woman this way must stop.

It will never be okay again.